Archive for July, 2012

This story was an experiment of sorts into whether I could write anything that had a) no science-fiction/fantasy overtones and b) that had romance.  I had The Gaslight Anthem’s song, “1930” playing at the time, and I had this story come into my head…

I can’t say I’ve ever been much of a writer. Not much of a decent one. My English instructor at the Academy always used to sneer at my prose, used to wave my meticulously handwritten essays and poems about the classroom for all of the supposedly prim ladies of Brooklyn’s finest school for the young and the rich.

My grammar was flawless. My penmanship was far superior to even my instructors’. Many a time, my instructor in History would display my essays and theories, not to box my ego across the ears, but to use it as a weapon to beat entire classes’ perceived punctuation perfections into sullen silence. This didn’t earn me many friends.

But for so long, after the balls and the galas and the house parties of New York society, I had nothing to put pen to paper for. My life was extravagant, but was it worth boxing other’s egos about, poetically? A The Depression had gripped New York. After the Crash, I considered myself lucky to own a home, let alone a Cadillac.

The Depression. I am losing my focus, and yet I am quite where I should be. To repent, to truly ask for forgiveness, I must ride out my shame, my sorrow, my loneliness, gripping this typewriter with irony in my head and grief searing my heart.

I must interject throughout this re-telling, but it is necessary, dear reader. For you to understand my unforgivable actions and my sinful joy, you must bear with me. I have borne worse than your impatience.

* * *

“Wattya doin’?”

The jet black Ford screeched against the snow-soaked curb, its gearshift rattling audibly.

“Hold up two lanes of traffic, why don’t ya? ”

I yanked my wheel hard left, motoring around the back end of the Ford; its front lay across Broadway Avenue’s midnight vista. The back had blocked the entire sidewalk, and a gaggle of fur-coated pedestrians in gloves and silk scarves were waving and bellowing at the driver to move.

As soon as my rear lights lit up the front, I stamped the pedal and lost myself in the school of traffic.

Weaving through downtown traffic, I slipped into the sea of taxis and followed suit, tailgating obsessively and honking in unison with the unshaven, dirty-faced, moonshine-swilling staple of New York life — the cabbie.

My bleary eyes shifted from the road to my cheap wind-up dangling off the rearview. 9:06 pm. Twenty-six customers had flagged me down. I had thirteen dollars jingling in my pocket. It drew a smile; I’d be paying the rent not on time, but early. Early. My cab was paying off; I had rent, food, and a roof. I’d been blessed. My fingers brushed the thumb-sized crucifix hanging from the mirror. I’d been truly blessed. What more could I ask for?

Her.

The lights changed and I stamped on the gas, shivering in the ice-cold draft through the radiator. Snow slid across my windshield in vast sheets, and I couldn’t see the sky. My headlights barely picked up the road, let alone what lay beyond.

9:15. My lights drifted across huddles of humanity — bums, shopkeepers, kids, rich folks. A show must have ended; a small flotilla of taxis were loitering at the curb and blocking all lanes. I managed to gun the engine and shoot past, through the opposite lane.

She was usually here.

My heart filled the cabin with the tempo. I found myself mashing the wheel cover with two fingers. Under my cap and ratty scarf, my face was burning.

Out of the misty gloom and the riot of downtown, a fur-coated woman stood at the curb, hand to her hooded face, arm clutching a handbag.

It was her.

I had taken care to wait for the nine o’clock taxi, like all nights. He had taken care to wait for me.

I yanked my hack over the curb, between two elegantly painted matte-black sedans. No showing off. Not even for my love. There was a job to do, and I would do it well.

She rapped on the windows, and I unlatched the back door. She slid her handbag across the back and clambered over the seat, managing to look both ladylike and dignified while doing it.

Even crawling on her hands and knees across a cab bench, she was beautiful.

Even through his muffler, through his hood and the filthy cap staining his ears, he was picture-perfect. Right down to the hair, the lashes.

I smiled, tipped my cap, and held out a half-gloved hand.

“Where to, ma’am?”

I knew her answer. It was nice hearing it from that melodic voice, those rich, warm lips. That voice, tuned to perfection, laced with subtle enunciation and elegance.

I gave him the customary answer. Hearing that polished drawl sent shivers down my spine. I could barely choke out my response. I nearly stepped out. I almost gave in.

I will not.

“West and 33rd, if you please.”

I will not.

“Very good, ma’am. That’ll be two dollars.”

This is my penance.

She slipped the crisp bills between my palms, I released the clutch, and we were off.
Between the sedans, across a section of snowed-in road, and we were out of the worst. I always cut my routes short; saves the customer’s cash, and gives me time to find more. For some reason, the long winding roads of Third Avenue were drawing me in. It was awfully beautiful with the gusts against the studios, cinemas, and theatres. I barely noticed and scarcely cared.

“Cold night, ma’am?”

“Freezing,” she murmured under her breath, staring at the snow patterns sweeping the roadway.

Or was she staring at me?

He had thinned out. There were new worry lines across his once-eloquent mouth. Were they worry lines or new smile lines? Upon contemplation, I knew they were the latter.

“I can believe it, ma’am. I’ve been caged inside this hack all day, and even with the heater full blast, it’s a miracle I’m not frozen stiffer than a Suit.”

I kept the banter flowing; my dispatcher always told me I could get decent work as a butcher. Apparently, I can talk the legs off an entire herd. Still, there was that haunted, distant look in her eye.

“What’s your name, cabbie?”

My elbows seized. I nearly killed us both. Trucks were barreling down Third with no traction and no brakes.

My name. She was asking for my name.

“Uhh… Joseph Morrison, ma’am.”

Joseph Morrison the Third. Articulate, contrite, and extremely arrogant. He was at the epicentre of a grand web, a web surrounding the wealthiest men in the world of commerce of the wealthiest nation this Earth had ever known — the United States of America.

I jammed my cap across my cheeks to hide the blushing. She was asking my name!

“Is there a problem, Mr. Morrison?”

“Please, ma’am. Call me Joe.”

He was a knife-sharp man, born to fight in international economic jousts; for land, bonds, stock. He was nimble with numbers. Cash flowed from between his fingers.

I stashed the money aside. More rent money. Everything was playing through my fingers tonight.

What more could a cabbie ask for?

“Joe, then. Is there a problem?”

“None at all, ma’am. My fingers are frozen from the drive. It’s been a long day.”

“How long?”

“Fifteen hours, ma’am,” I answered stoically.

He was so … matter of fact, so nonchalant about his work. He had been on the road since six o’clock that morning. He had been staining his brow with honest sweat.

He is worse than I imagined.

Adrenaline seeped through my digits.

“Fifteen hours? Is this routine?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Are there jobs you can apply for that require you to labour for less than fifteen hours a day?”

“Possibly, ma’am.” My foot slammed the brake, nearly launching the woman’s handbag through the window.

I was waiting for that. My handbag alone could feed him for an entire month. It was a test of character.

“Ma’am!” I caught her handbag with one remaining hand just as it ricocheted across the windscreen, the star-like studs smashing off the glass, leaving cracks in both my windshield and my wallet.

“Oh, sir! I apologize! It just slipped out of my-”

“It’s all right ma’am.” I sighed, counting up the damages in my head.

My hand tightened on the wheel. I’d lose every penny I’d earned today. I’d lose every single fucking dime I’d made, while this fucking Dame, who was playing with me, playing with me like some damn poodle of hers….

Why did it matter? I’d get the money another day. She wasn’t going to leave, not by my harsh words. I loved her.

And so, I forgave her.

He was known for his rages. Over brandy and fine china, he’d rant and rave at businessmen, at politicians, at factory bosses with arms flailing like windmills and glass shattering like a parlour version of the Somme. He simply could not accept failure. It is the curse of one who can see every move ever made on the board, and be forced to play by proxy.

He was violent. He was abusive. He was sick.

I could only watch.

He was my husband.

“How do you like your job, Mr Morrison?”

I scratched my neck, embarrassed. “Well, ma’am, it suits me fine. It’s a good job, ferrying rich folks like yourself around.”

“Really? What do you find so glamorous about freezing in a cabin for fifteen hours?”

My teeth clenched. Her voice had an odd uptake at the end, as if she regretted asking somewhere in the middle of doing so.

It was funny to see him scratch his head at that. He wasn’t lying. He absolutely loved his career.

It was gut-wrenching to see the scar, once again, streaking across the back of his skull.

“It’s a job I do, and it’s a job I do well. Don’t you dare patronize me for it!”

I nearly jumped the curb once more with my fury. Through the rear-view window, her gloved fingertips brushed her lips, a sigh of terror escaped them. Terror, or sadness?

That blue-eyed, red-hazed stare was all too familiar.

The Jersey Manor Ball, nineteen twenty six, had been our last outing together. I’d accompanied him through the extravagant double doors of the manor, past the bankers from Russia, and across the threshold. My eyes were still bruised from the night before. My stomach still ached.

What a monster. What a sick monster.

The cab screeched to a halt outside a looming set of black, crumbling buildings. West and 33rd Street.

“Get out.”

“Mr. Morris…”

“I said GET OUT!”

I threw her handbag into the snow. She tumbled out of the seat a moment a moment later. Her furs stretched across the sidewalk, leaving her bright red dress scattered across her elegant limbs and the freezing tarmac.

He was in one of his old moods.

“I don’t need your jibes about a job that barely earns me the rent!”

I was in a new one. I’d had enough. I’d had quite enough with his moods. So had half the world’s investors. They were slowly going bankrupt because of his tantrums. In hindsight, he reminds me quite a lot of a rising political star within Germany – Hitler?

“I’m sorry.”

“No! No you’re not! Every time I drive you, you give me this sympathetic gaze! As if I’m mental! I’ve had enough! Get out!”

Hiring a man was easy enough. Hiring one that wouldn’t miss proved to be harder.

She scrambled to her feet, eyes wide. People stopped along the frozen sidewalk, watching her retreat.

He hit. My husband survived. And now he lives as a cabbie, not remembering his past life.
Strange. My act of vengeance changed his personality completely.

And yet I miss him.

Thus ends chapter one. My confession has been made in print, within the hallowed pages of a bestseller.

I am free.

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It’s Been Ages!

Posted: July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

Wow.  It’s been almost three months since I last updated this page- I have a whole host of new things to put up.  

While my ability to update this page has been limited, this does not mean I haven’t been busy.  Oh no.

“Pit Stop 189″‘s first draft is currently done and is undergoing massive editing and story-boarding, I’ve finished and sent off my first short story to a paying site (and am still waiting for a reply), and I’ve finished a whole host of new stories.  I figure I’ll put them up right here, right now.  

Coming up is a collection of flash fiction that’s under the title of “Washed Out” at the moment, as well as one or two other short stories.  Most of my shorts right now are either in the midst of serious editing, or are being submitted to magazines in the off chance that somebody will publish (meaning that I can’t post them here, though I will if nothing happens with them!”

Cheers

Ben Dodge